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  • INZBC Secretariat

Asia connections are at the heart of success for many South Island businesses, new report shows

A new report from the Asia New Zealand Foundation finds strong appetite among South Island businesses to continue growing trade and investment links to Asia, even as Covid-19 constrains their ability to connect in person.

The Foundation commissioned Christchurch-based Research First to survey South Island businesses. Research First spoke to 150 South Island-headquartered companies, including those with existing links to Asia and those that were considering establishing links. 

The report highlights that the South Island is a major contributor to New Zealand’s overall business engagement with Asia, with links right across the region and across numerous sectors. Further, the report finds that most businesses have remarkably well-established connections, with over half having done business with or in Asia for at least 10 years.

While COVID-19 presents an ongoing challenge for South Island businesses, the research finds the pandemic has not diminished interest in Asian markets. Most businesses interviewed — 71 percent — said they wanted to grow their business in Asia further.

Here are some key findings from the report:

South Island businesses are connected right across Asia. Many South Island businesses have links to North Asia, with 50 percent trading with China and 28 percent trading with Japan. More than half of businesses surveyed had connections to Southeast Asia.

There is no typical business when it comes to links with Asia. Manufacturers and service providers are among those sectors that have links, not just primary production and tourism.

Most South Island businesses with existing links to Asia had well-established connections. Fifty-seven percent had been doing business with or in Asia for at least 10 years and 70 percent had been connected for at least five years.

Businesses with existing links to Asia want to grow them more —71 percent said they wanted to grow their business in Asia further. 

Language capability and market knowledge were considered critical skills for developing links with Asia. These skills were seen to be more critical than managing competition or contending with trade barriers.

Personal connections were seen to be the biggest game-changer for new companies wanting to open doors to business opportunities in Asian markets.

There are untapped resources in the South Island for developing New Zealand’s capabilities in Asia and more can be done to promote their use to businesses interested in establishing new trade there. They include organisations with specialist Asia knowledge and skills, diaspora communities and “COVID returnees” who have come back to New Zealand with Asia business experience.

You can read the report here:

Embargoed till 20 Oct Te Waipounamu and Asia report
Download PDF • 5.90MB

The foundation will be convening a series of panel discussions with South Island chambers of commerce and businesses in upcoming weeks, starting with a launch in Christchurch tomorrow, in partnership with the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce. More information about their events can be found here:


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